The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Cross River on Wednesday urged the state government to increase the number of isolation centres as well as medical personnel in the state civil service.
Chairman of NMA in the state, Dr Agam Ayuk, disclosed this on Wednesday in Calabar while addressing newsmen on Covid-19 response and the state of the health sector in Cross River.
Ayuk said that the 4-bed capacity Isolation Unit at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, was the Infectious Disease Ward of the Department of Microbiology in the hospital.
He said that a report has been submitted by the Central Working Committee of Health Professionals in Cross River to the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Betta Edu.
He said that the professional body stated there-in that the isolation centre lacks basic facilities, equipment and accessories based on NCDC specifications.
According to him, the capacity of UCTH Isolation Centre was grossly inadequate, hence, NMA recommended that the state government should set up a more expansive and accommodating Isolation Centre as soon as possible.
“NMA in Cross River acknowledges and commends the measures so far instituted by the Cross River Government towards securing the borders of the state to help limit the transmission and spread of COVID-19 from neighbouring states and Cameroon.
“The policy of the use of cloth nose mask introduced by the state government which has now been recommended by the Federal Government is also highly commendable.
“However, while the use of face mask is helpful, it does not confer full protection against Covid-19 and citizens of the state should not be lured into a false sense of security by the mere use of face mask.
“According to the World Health Organisation Interim Guidance of April 6, 2020, the use of face masks (medical or non-medical) whether for source control (used by infected persons) or prevention of Covid-19 (used by healthy persons) alone is insufficient to provide an adequate level of protection; we advises other measures to be adopted.
“Therefore, face mask is complementary to social/physical distancing of at least 1 meter, avoiding mass gatherings, effective hand and respiratory hygiene and cleaning of all contact surfaces among other measures as recommended by the NCDC and World Health Organisation,” he said.
The Chairman also stated that the call by the state government that all civil servants from Grade level 10 and above to resume work was ill-timed and not in the best public health interest.
He explained that the primordial/primary prevention strategy of the state Government was the cheapest, safest and best strategy to adopt considering the peculiar challenges.
He added that but this could be derailed by this mass resumption of staff that constitutes almost 50 per cent of the workforce.
“We advise other means of getting critical sectors to work while avoiding mass gatherings because of the risk posed by asymptomatic carriers of the virus and without resources for mass testing of the population.”
On the number of doctors in the state, Ayuk said the claims that the state Government has 105 Doctors in the state civil service was grossly misleading and a misrepresentation of a critical issue affecting effective health care delivery.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we have attached the distribution of Cross River doctors across the various state facilities reaffirming our position of 33 doctors in the Cross River Civil Service.
“The number of doctors in the State Civil Service is the least in the country. A doctor in Cross River Civil Service earns 46 to 54 per cent of what other colleagues earns across the country.
“Doctors in Cross River are the least paid by any state government in the country. It is therefore difficult to engage or retain this critical workforce.
“We, therefore, call on the state government to use this period of COVID-19 pandemic to address the human resource capacity and other deficits in the health sector,” he said.
Also speaking, the state Secretary of NMA, Dr Ezoke Epoke, added that Cross River has the least number of doctors in the South South.
“In Delta, we have 441 doctors employed by the state government, the next is Rivers state with 430 doctors, Akwa Ibom has 361 doctors, while Edo has 230 and Bayelsa with 220 doctors and Cross River has the least with 33 doctors.
“We have met with the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Commissioner for Health, we have met with the deputy governor. We have done extensive engagement for over a year on this very issue but to no avail,” he said.